A huge thank you to Elisabeth Gifford and Kirsty Doole at Corvus for sending me a copy of The Lost Lights of St. Kilda. This is Elisabeth’s fourth book and is published today. So happy publication day! Before I give you my thoughts, here’s the blurb.
1927: When Fred Lawson takes a summer job on St Kilda, little does he realise that he has joined the last community to ever live on that beautiful, isolated island. Only three years later, St Kilda will be evacuated, the islanders near-dead from starvation. But for Fred, that summer – and the island woman, Chrissie, whom he falls in love with – becomes the very thing that sustains him in the years ahead.
1940: Fred has been captured behind enemy lines in France and finds himself in a prisoner-of-war camp. Beaten and exhausted, his thoughts return to the island of his youth and the woman he loved and lost. When Fred makes his daring escape, prompting a desperate journey across occupied territory, he is sustained by one thought only: finding his way back to Chrissie.
The Lost Lights of St Kilda is a sweeping love story that will cross oceans and decades. It is a moving and deeply vivid portrait of two lovers, a desolate island, and the extraordinary power of hope in the face of darkness.
Oh. My. This is stunning. If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you’ll know that Elisabeth’s previous book, The Good Doctor of Warsaw, was my book of the year in 2018. It was a wonderful retelling of the true story of Dr Janusz Korczak. It was beautifully written but Elisabeth was bound by the constructs of truth.
Although huge research has clearly gone into The Lost Lights of St. Kilda, the story itself is fictional, allowing Elisabeth’s imagination to run wild. I’ve read all of her books and this is, by far, her best novel to date.
As I’m used to fast-paced crime books, it took me a little while to settle into the gentler pace of this love story. It soon became one of those novels I deliberately read slower so I could stay in the magical place of St. Kilda for longer. I’ve never been to Scotland let alone the Scottish Isles (disgraceful, I know, and needs to be rectified) but I feel as though I’ve been to St. Kilda through Elisabeth’s wondrous descriptions. The lyrical quality of Elisabeth’s words brings the story alive. I wrote a tweet when I was halfway through the book saying I wanted to ‘shout from the rooftops about it. Or rather sing because it’s beautifully lyrical and hauntingly descriptive.’
The story is told through the eyes of the two main characters, Chrissie and Fred, and switches between 1927/8 and WW2. I loved the drama of Fred’s escape and attempting to get back to Scotland and find Chrissie. But the emotional heart of the story lies in St. Kilda and the burgeoning love between the two lovers.
I don’t read a lot of romance but I think this is the best love story I have ever read. It’s evocative, atmospheric and emotional. Top Ten Reads of the Year material? Oh yes. Most definitely.
The Lost Lights of St. Kilda can be bought here.
I’ve been blessed with two copies of The Lost Lights of St Kilda as I have a proof and a HB. I’ve decided that I want as many people as possible to read this wonderful book so I’m going to donate my HB to my local library – West Barnes Library. So the lucky residents of Merton will get an opportunity to borrow it. This seems particularly apt as Elisabeth came to the library last March to talk about The Good Doctor of Warsaw.
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married with three children, and lives in Kingston upon Thames. She is the author of Secrets of the Sea House, Return to Fourwinds and The Good Doctor of Warsaw. She has also written the non-fiction book, The House of Hope. The Lost Lights of St. Kilda is published in March 2020.